Local News

Survivors, Family Members Gather To Remember 10th Anniversary Of Hamlet Plant Fire

Posted September 3, 2001

— Monday marks ten years since a fiery explosion tore through a Hamlet chicken plant, killing 25 employees. Now, work is set to begin on the demolition of the old site.

Survivors and family members of the victims attended a memorial service at the Prayer and Faith Temple Church Monday. Ten years ago, a fire killed 25 people and injured 56 more at the nearby Imperial Foods plant.

Many of the exits were locked, trapping employees inside the burning building. After the incident, the state completely overhauled its workplace safety enforcement rules following the fire.

"Our purpose today is stated simply. That structure must come down," says Jeanette Terry who spoke at the service. "Today, we are going to stand united. We are not going to accept no for an answer anymore. That building will come down."

"I don't mean no disrespect or anything, but it's been 10 years and we're still suffering," says Conester Williams who survived the fire. "It's been 10 years that we asked the plant to come down. It's been 10 years that we asked for it to be a memorial park."

After the service, people marched from the church to the site of the plant and held a vigil. Darrell Wilkins, who lost his wife, Rose, in the fire, hit the building several times with a sledgehammer.

"The wounds are still there. After a while, they just become scars," he says. "I would say it's better today and it's even better after this service."

Criminal charges were brought against the plant's owner, Emmett Roe. He was convicted of two counts of involuntary manslaugter and served four-and-a-half years in prison.

Demolition of the site is expected to take place either this week or next week. Preliminary plans call for public housing to be built on the plant site in addition to a memorial wall and 25 trees.

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